School (psychology)

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In psychology, a school is a college that has jointly represented consensus views, a common scientific tradition and a common doctrine . The school affiliation plays a much larger role in scientific practice, as is the case in other scientific disciplines. Psychologists from a common school often develop closer collegial cohesion and defend their views together against other schools, which like to be marginalized and portrayed in their shortcomings.

The school affiliation is an important characteristic for every psychologist, because then he can be sure to find a large set of common views and previous knowledge in the teaching staff, which is not the case with members of a foreign school.

This does not mean the discipline , department or chair in which members of different schools work together.

Examples of psychological schools (alphabetical)


Behaviorism emerged in the early 20th century BC. a. in the United States (in 1913, JB Watson's programmatic article “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It” appeared). Watson worked on the basis of Pavlov's study of conditioned reflexes . Starting points of behaviorism were u. a. the rejection of introspection as a method of investigation and the orientation of psychology to the model of the natural sciences . For behaviorism behavior is (Engl. Behavior ) actually interesting research topic, not (hypothetical) internal processes. In principle, behaviorism sees behavior more shaped by current conditions in the individual's environment and by the learning history than by genetic predisposition. As a representative of classical behaviorism, Watson largely excluded (but did not deny) research into processes that were not observable by outsiders such as thinking, planning, feeling, etc. This approach is therefore also called methodological behaviorism. While methodological behaviorism emerged in the research program of empirical-scientific psychology, BF Skinner developed a more extensive approach in which he viewed all activities of the organism - and thus also internal psychological processes - as behavior that is accessible to scientific investigation (radical behaviorism, behavior analysis ) . In the 1960s, behaviorism lost its previously dominant position in academic psychology to cognitivism (so-called cognitive turn ).
Other representatives of behaviorism:


After William James ( Harvard ) in the late nineteenth century. The functionalists rejected statistics as a method of analyzing consciousness and rather wanted to develop an understanding of its fluid character, to examine its processes. They placed learning in the foreground of the considerations and orientated themselves on the works of Charles Darwin .

Gestalt psychology

The Gestalt psychology emerged about the same time as behaviorism. Max Wertheimer is considered the founder . The central assumption of this school is that a consciousness process composed of parts has its own quality that the sum of the individual parts does not have - namely the shape. It is more than the sum of its parts - this phrase has become widely known in science.

Individual psychology

Individual psychology is the dynamic concept of a non-mechanistic, understanding psychology that focuses on social human relationships and the individual's interaction with his or her environment.

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology has been developed as an independent field of work since the late 1970s and is a derivative of cognitivism . It integrates many statements from other schools. It is therefore compatible with many schools.


According to this, the conscious psychological processes represent only a vanishingly small part of all processes. The unconscious is not naturally unconscious, but only arises as a result of (negative) experiences ( trauma ), mostly educational threats of punishment, which are particularly characteristic in childhood occur because the individual is in a mentally weak position there.


Based on neurology , neurophysiology , on the level of individual nerve cells and their systems.

  • neural networks
  • Hebbian learning rule
  • based on modern methods, it intervenes in the statements of almost every school
  • historically oriented particularly contrary to psychoanalysis


After Wilhelm Wundt , founded in 1879 in the first psychological laboratory at the University of Leipzig. This school was primarily concerned with perception and discovered some laws that are now generally accepted. This school also established the quality criteria that are generally binding in all biological sciences today:

Relationship between the different schools

Quarrels arose early on among the individual psychological schools; this is often fundamental to this day. The points of contention are broad and range from research (in particular with regard to the research subject and the methodology used) to teaching to diagnostics and intervention ( see also: Psychotherapy ). They can be traced back to individual basic assumptions, which schools mostly treat in a contrary way.

Thus, behaviorist schools have traditionally been irreconcilable towards psychoanalytic schools. This tense relationship goes back a long way in the history of science and can be pointed to the catchphrase of the black box . The basic assumptions of both schools on this point are diametrically opposed, which results in the fact that psychotherapeutic and thus depth psychological on the one hand and behavioristic methodological concepts on the other are largely incompatible. Thus, from the is behaviorism emerged behavioral therapy fundamentally different structure than those from the scientific psychoanalysis originating psychodynamic psychotherapy (Freudian psychoanalysis).

Another example of the relationship between schools of psychology is in the field of biological psychology, neuropsychology and psychoanalysis , which historically have long been considered incompatible. Above all, however, the more recent discovery of inhibitory circuits in the brain is very promising for the neuropsychological confirmation of unconscious processes.

Geriatric psychology

Gerontopsychology deals with older people. Among other things, the various forms of dementia are treated and attempts are made to solve the loneliness of the elderly with discussions and “therapy rounds”, currently mainly in old people's homes, settlements and apartments.

Gerontopsychology deals with the proportion of human experience and behavior that can be ascribed to the aging process and how it can be influenced. As a sub-discipline, it can be assigned to both psychology and gerontology. It is a relatively young field of developmental psychology.

This did not establish itself as an independent area until the end of the 1980s, after various empirical findings made it necessary to revise previous one-dimensional development concepts, which assumed that human development was completed after childhood and adolescence. Research on aging in particular was carried out before, but mainly in the field of differential psychology due to the narrow limits of the concept of development. Gerontology reflects the change in the image of old age in society. The target group is the general public, the elderly themselves, groups professionally involved with seniors and politics. Seniors' days and congresses serve as a medium between universities and the general public.

Gerontological research includes examining the biological basis of aging as well as changing social systems. Social sciences and demography are related sciences to gerontology. The aim of gerontology is to link different specialist areas such as geriatrics, geriatric psychiatry, care for the elderly and social work to form an independent scientific discipline. An increased focus on pragmatic questions can be observed. Disciplines of economics also address the question of how the pension system should be optimally designed. Knowledge of economics will increase in the future due to the increasing management orientation of the area. The German Federal Government has so far published six reports on the elderly examining the situation of elderly people (1991–2010).


  1. ^ Watson, JB ( 1913 ). Psychology as the Behaviorist views it. Psychological Review 20 , 158-177. ( Article online )